How To Plan And Protect Your Dog After You’re Gone

Woman hugging a dog

Dogs offer their unconditional love, companionship and loyalty. They enhance our lives in so many ways and ask so little in return. And yet, they’re completely dependent on us to provide for their well-being and basic needs.

During our pets’ lives, we do all we can to ensure that these needs are met. But have you thought about what would happen if you were no longer there to provide for these needs? It may be uncomfortable, but it’s important to think about pet care after your death.

Unfortunately, many pets are surrendered to animal shelters when their loving owners pass away. That’s why taking the time to plan for your pet in the event of a serious illness or death is one of the necessities of responsible dog ownership.  

So, what kinds of plans and considerations should you have in place to make sure your canine companion is cared for if something were to happen to you? Whether your situation is temporary, or will require permanent rehoming, this guide will make sure you have your pet’s bases covered.

Immediate Care Needs

It’s important that you have a plan in place for immediate care in the event of an accident or sudden hospitalization. Many of us have family members who are willing to step in as a long-term guardian for our pet. However, they may need time to travel or make other arrangements in order to take over caregiving responsibilities.

It’s also important to have a plan for someone that has access to your residence who will be aware of your health situation and be able to step in immediately to meet the basic short-term needs of your canine companion.

Keep a list of all of your pets along with the contact information for your emergency pet guardian in your wallet. Be sure your close friends, vet and relatives also have this vital information.

Your immediate care person needs to be prepared with the following:

  • Access to your home or residence (key and/or security codes)
  • Information on care including appropriate food (including amounts), treats and medications
  • Veterinary contact information
  • Up-to-date records
  • Contact information for a permanent caregiver that you’ve arranged in advance
  • Contact information for pet sitting and/or dog boarding services that you may use
  • Money for short-term expenses such as food or supplements

If you don’t know anyone that is willing or able to take immediate action in the event that your dog should need emergency short-term care, you may want to consider doing some research on your local dog kennel options.

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In The Event Of An Emergency

Most communities have dog boarding services. In fact, some vets offer this service as well (although often at much higher rates). These days, dogs often enjoy the company of supervised play with other pooches for a fun filled day of frolicking at summer camp style doggy daycare facilities across the nation.

What you need to be aware of, however, is that these facilities often require meeting prospective visitors in advance of an overnight stay.

In addition, they may require specific vaccines, such as bordetella, that your dog may not have. Look for a facility that won’t pressure you into doing anything you’re not comfortable with.

If a boarding situation is likely, it’s wise to plan for that in advance. Schedule an appointment to tour the facilities and get your dog onboarded into their system. Make sure they’re ok with what you feed and will stick to it (ie if you feed raw, make sure they’ll follow that).

Let friends and family know which service you decide to use so they know what to do in the event of an emergency.

Of course, even if you arrange for emergency boarding in advance, be sure you have informed someone that will be in the loop who can make the necessary arrangements, including transport. It’s wise to also make sure they will have the funds necessary to cover the boarding expenses until your permanent caregiver is able to take over.  

RELATED: It goes both ways. There are also important ways to help you deal with loss. Here’s some advice on saying goodbye to your dog.

Long Term Planning For Pet Care After Your Death

Experts recommend identifying at least 2 trusted friends or family members who have the means, ability and willingness to take over the care and ownership of your dog in the event of your death. Sometimes situations can change, so having a primary and a backup plan is a good idea.

It’s important to have a frank discussion with them as well. Make sure they have the financial support they need to provide for your pet and that they are able to take care of the emotional and physical well-being of your beloved companion.

In addition, your long-term caregiver needs to have all the same information and access listed above.

Personal Will

If you want to be sure that your wishes are respected in the event of your death or incapacitation due to illness, it’s imperative to discuss your pet as part of your estate planning with an attorney.

In most cases, setting up provisions for pet care in the event of your passing is straightforward if you have done the prep in terms of identifying and discussing your wishes with your chosen pet guardian.

Power of Attorney

Some people are comfortable assigning a Power of Attorney to a trusted person they feel will make the best possible decisions for their pet in the event that they can no longer do so. This is another option for long term planning that your attorney may advise. This makes sure there is someone who is empowered to make immediate decisions that are in the best interest of your pet.   


If you have the means, set up a trust for the explicit care of your pet when you’re gone to provide the funds for a long-term guardian to provide proper care.

Special provisions can also be made to set aside funds for emergency care and other costs associated with pet ownership that your pet caregiver may face.


Planning for your pet’s needs in the event of your illness or passing is not terribly complicated, but it does take a little bit of thoughtful consideration and action in advance. And it’s very important.

Having a plan in place for pet care after your death will help ensure your dog’s immediate and long term needs are taken care of.

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